By Master Caleb Reynolds
Nothing says “medieval manuscript” quite like the gleam of gold shining on the page. Gilding is the high wire act of the scribe’s art, the skill that can boost a scroll from “not bad” to “wow!”
Gilding can be an intimidating skill, and all too many scribes give up after a few hesitant experiments. Gilding is not as difficult as it first appears, and the results are well worth the effort. This article is the result of several minutes worth of experimentation with gilding; it’s so easy anyone can do it.
Step 1: Make your design. For this example I will be using a simple design: just some dude in a ‘T’. Pencil in the design, ink over the pencil marks, and then erase the pencil marks. I find that the end result looks better.
Step 2: Mask off everywhere on the image that you don’t want gilded.
Take your time to make sure that you cover everything. And use good painter’s tape. Cheap tape will only disappoint. Use multiple layers as needed. A good X-ACTO knife will help you trim the tape to fit the curves and oddball shapes on your image. You might want to start off with straight lines and borders until you get the hang of it.
Step 3: Shake up your can of gold spray paint. I prefer Rust-Oleum to Krylon. I think that the Rust-Oleum gold is shinier and doesn’t require a primer. And since you don’t have to put down a primer coat, you save time.
Hold the can a couple of inches away from the paper and spray in short bursts. By spraying close to the paper, you can make sure that the paint doesn’t touch the area around your mask. And using short sprays you make sure that you don’t over saturate the paper. Use quick sprays until you cover all of the desired parts. Once you have covered all of the area, let the paint dry overnight. This is important. You don’t want to skip this step. If the paint isn’t dry, you can smudge it when you remove the tape.
Step 4: Time to remove the tape. You can see how shiny the paint is. Krylon doesn’t look this good. Now, carefully peel up the tape. You might need an X-ACTO knife to get underneath the tape. Work slowly and peel away from the gold paint. Again, work slowly. You don’t want all of your work to go to waste. Don’t try to save the tape. It’s given all that it can give. Some of you might be thinking that you can re-use your mask on another sheet of paper and save you some time, if you want to make two copies of the same scroll. It really isn’t worth the time and effort: the tape is covered in paint and will curl up on itself. Painter’s tape isn’t that expensive.
Once you have all of the tape removed, you can sit back and admire how nice your gilding is. And you didn’t have to mess around with gold leaf and gesso. Don’t be overly concerned with not having a perfect mask. If some gold paint bled through the edges of the tape, don’t sweat it: just paint over the errant gold and no one will notice the difference.
With only a small amount of practice, you should be able to lay gold quickly and easily. I find this method works best for me, but please, experiment and practice for yourself. You may well find a better brand of spray paint that works better for you, and you should always strive for better results and greater accuracy. Whichever way, gilding will enhance the look of your work immensely, and make the scrolls you create treasures indeed.